Last week, I heard a middle-aged white man say to a woman of color, in response to hearing her innovative ideas, “I don’t feel the need to personally raise my consciousness on this topic.” And I felt the entire room of people stiffen.
Now that I got your attention with the opener, I’ll give a little more info. The entire scene really happened in only a few moments.
A woman presented a draft of a public talk. I’m doing one as well, and that’s why I was in the room. My talk is on the masculine/feminine balance within each person. Her talk is on reparations needing to include more than money or a paycheck.
A man was giving her feedback after hearing her full talk, said his wife works with “the blacks and the Latinos” and talks to him about these things all the time, so he specifically did not see a need for himself to raise his consciousness in the areas she was talking about. And I have no idea what else he said because, at that point, my entire head got hot.
I thought, “Did he just say that?!” And I began looking around the room.
We live in a progressive town.
We were in a progressive event.
A white man, saying to a black woman – I have nothing to learn from you.
First of all, he actually said this.
Second of all, he showed no signs of awareness that he should not have said this.
I was really looking for signs that I’d misheard him, or that he could see maybe he’d misspoken, but I didn’t see any such indicators.
And finally, with the segment for feedback very short, I broke the rules of only one person giving feedback per speaker, and I gave the designated feedback-giver some feedback. And I said, knowing I had only a moment for a soundbite, “Excuse me, I just need to say, that you saying that you don’t feel the need to raise your consciousness is exactly the issue here.” It is the same root of the same problems she was talking about. This woman didn’t need me speaking for her, which I wasn’t trying to do, and she was speaking for herself just fine. And, I chose in that moment to say something, because I decided a long time ago that I’m not going to be silent.
I’m not sure that the way I did it – quickly and heated – actually lead him to learn anything, or if it just looked like another angry woman speaking in a biting tone to an unsuspecting man.
I am pro-man and pro-masculinity, hear me now. And I will also say that the privilege to make that comment, the privilege to feel that one does not need to raise his consciousness, is the privilege that men need to be aware of. This default thinking perpetuates so much ignorance, when if instead the line of thinking was something more like, “Please, share with me your experience so that I can raise my consciousness in this area,” then we’d really all be better off.
I’d like for men to share with me, honestly, their experiences so that I can raise my consciousness about their experience.
I’d like for us all to ask this of one another. “Please, will you help me to understand? Will you share your stories so that my understanding might grow? I’d love to learn from you based on the life you’ve lived, how can I better listen?”
Let’s seek to understand. Let there never, ever, be a lid on our consciousness. Ever.
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